Media Release: Historic ruling awards $4.5M to Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation for withheld Treaty Annuity payments

For Immediate Release

December 27, 2016

– With files from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and Maurice Law.

Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation, Treaty 6 – The Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation has successfully defended Treaty rights in Saskatchewan. In a decision on Friday, December 23, the Specific Claims Tribunal ordered the federal government to pay $4.5 million for $4,250 in treaty money illegally withheld by the Crown from members of the bands from 1885 to 1888 in what is now considered a breach of the Crown’s Treaty obligations to members of the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation.

We have waited 130 years for this outstanding Treaty rights claim to be honoured and settled,” said Chief Rick Gamble of the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation. This is a great day for the people of Beardy’s & Okemasis, and a great victory for Treaty rights in Saskatchewan!

In the aftermath of the 1885 Riel Resistance, the government identified 14 First Nations for their alleged participation in the resistance. As punishment, the government withheld annuities from all band members who were labelled “rebel Indians” – including every man, woman, and child, some of whom could not have possibly participated in any way in the resistance.

The government also confiscated guns, ammunition, horses, cattle, carts, wagons, harnesses, and Treaty medals from these First Nations while strictly enforcing the pass system, a punitive measure which severely restricted members from leaving their reserves without permission. In addition, the government did not allow the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation to have a Chief and Council until 1936.

The specific claim by the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation is about the implementation and the protection of treaty promises that were made when Chief Beardy entered into treaty,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. “The Tribunal’s decision will set a precedent for the other First Nations who experienced similar treatment and have specific claims with the government.

Canada also withheld Treaty payments from 14 other First Nations that include: Chakastaypasin, Little Pine, Lucky Man, Moosomin, Mosquito/Grizzly Bear’s Head/Lean Man, Muskeg Lake, One Arrow, Onion Lake, Poundmaker, Red Pheasant, Sweetgrass, Thunderchild, Young Chipewayan.

The timing of the decision offers First Nations across the country new hope for reconciliation as the Government of Canada has committed to expediting the resolution of specific claims in the future.

This decision should also pave the way for the prompt settlement of similar claims brought by the other so-called “disloyal” First Nations. I’m hopeful that the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Dr. Carolyn Bennett and her government, do the right thing and settle these long-standing claims in a fair and honourable manner.” concluded Chief Gamble.

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View the Specific Claim Tribunal compensation decision here.
View a Backgrounder on the Specific Claim here.
View the Specific Claim Tribunal ruling here.

For more information, please contact:

Chief & Council Communications
Phone: 306-467-4523
communications@beardysband.com

Ron S. Maurice – Maurice Law Barristers & Solicitors
Phone: 403.874.5459

Mervin Brass – Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations
Phone: 306.665.1215  |  Mobile: 306.370.1689
mervin.brass@fsin.com

Media Release: Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation adopts suite of Election Act changes

For Immediate Release

December 20, 2016

BEARDY’S & OKEMASIS FIRST NATION ADOPTS SUITE OF ELECTION ACT CHANGES

Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation, Treaty 6 – “We, the people of the Beardy’s and Okemasis’ Cree Nation have the inherent right to govern ourselves according to our customs, traditions, and natural laws of the nehiyawak” reads the opening line of the newly amended Beardy’s & Okemasis’ Cree Nation Election Act.

More than 150 people attended a duly-convened, special meeting on Monday, December 19th to amend the former Band Custom Election Act at the community’s Rec Centre.

I am truly honoured to have been part of the team that facilitated the amendment process to our Election Act. The committee facilitated this process through extensive planning and consultation, by retaining our legal counsel: Koren Lightening-Earle, and organizing and promoting the vote” explains Councillor Leighanne Gardipy-Bill, the Chair of the Yahkohtewin Governance Planning Committee. “The ultimate law amending authority rests with our membership, and I would like to thank them for participating in every step of this journey; and especially, the guidance of our Elders: Betsy Gamble, Suzanne Seeseequasis, Angus Esperance and Charlie Sutherland. They have kept us grounded and motivated by reminding us that this work is for our children and those still to come. Nanaskamon.

In total, 11 amendments were proposed and adopted to the newly re-titled Beardy’s & Okemasis’ Cree Nation Election Act including provisions for mandatory drug testing, reducing council from 8 to 6 councillors, and adding candidate election fees: $400.00 for Chief; Councillors pay $200.

In 2008, our community members voted unanimously to adopt mandatory drug testing for Council – that motion was never enacted” recalled Councillor Kevin Seesequasis. “Yesterday’s adoption of mandatory drug testing in our Election Act honours the spirit and intent of that original motion 8 years ago.

The reduction from 8 to 6 councillors will save the Nation more than $350,000 over the course of a term, this is money that can be diverted to service long-term debt, or enhance existing programming” added Councillor Jeremy Seeseequasis. “The new fees for candidates means that the band will no longer incur significant debt to fund our elections.

The amendments that were adopted are not new. They have been discussed and debated for at least 2 decades, they belong to the community. The words within the new Election Act are the voice of our people and are an extension of who we are as a Nation. This is an incredibly proud day” concluded Councillor Roy Petit.

The document also received a face lift including a new cover page, some re-formatting, and a new layout to improve readability.

The revised Election Act will be available online shortly at www.bofn9697.com/governance.

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For more information, please contact:

Chief & Council Communications
306.467.4523 ext 237  |  communications@beardysband.com